Proprietary format, i.e. solutions that do not follow a known standard, is often a hot topic. They have various advantages; it makes it difficult for pirates and substandard products as well as avoiding any compatibility problems, but there is also a clear disadvantage: the price tag. With a proprietary format, it is basically a monopoly with little or worse competition, as the owner can choose who is allowed to make the products.
In itself, this is not unusual in the console world. For example, most controllers are proprietary solutions, such as headsets, console cameras, VR headsets and the likes. When it comes to expanding hard disk space for the new consoles, Microsoft and Sony have chosen two different solutions. The latter does not use proprietary formats, but it must be exactly the right kind and consequently it is not possible today to expand the memory of the PlayStation 5, even if the console is prepared for this, with the function coming at a later date.
However, Microsoft has chosen to invest in its own solution. Via a port on the back of the Xbox Series S and X, you can insert a memory card (with the imaginative name Storage Expansion Card) and instantly enlarge the memory. Microsoft has already flagged that there will be several manufacturers and sizes of memory cards later, but in time for the launch of the Xbox Series S and X, there is only one variant to choose from, and it comes from Seagate and is one terabyte in size.
The price tag is £219/€249, which is about as much as you would have to pay for a Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSD with a one terabyte storage as well. Of course, that does not make it cheaper though, but for those who want SSD space, avoiding the hassle of uninstalling/installing games and being able to have the comfort of having many great titles ready at the same time, it is a luxury option. Of course, you can buy a standard mechanical external hard drive and relatively quickly (a few minutes) move your Xbox Series S/X games between it and the internal SSD, but it's still not as convenient.
What strikes me when I unpack the retail box, which is as big as a large matchbox, is how insanely small the Storage Expansion Card is. It is 53 millimetres in length and 32 millimetres in width and 7.5 millimetres in height - much like a memory card for PlayStation 1 and 2, if you will. Sturdily built, it is small enough to fit between the two analogue sticks on an Xbox Series S/X controller (which is slightly smaller than the Xbox One edition), and the design makes me think about how luxurious car keys looked in the years before it became start button solutions.
The Storage Expansion Card is engraved with both a Seagate and Xbox logo, plus a little information showing it holds a terabyte of data. A plastic sleeve is included if you want to protect it, for example during transport if you bring games to a friend. The installation is as simple as it can be, and you only need to push in the memory card with your Xbox Series S/X turned on, whereupon your extra storage space immediately appears on the console. It is also not possible to accidentally insert it in the wrong direction, however, do note that the card may need to be pushed in a little further than what you might think for it to operate.
The card gives 920 gigabytes to save on, which is more than the 802 gigabytes the Xbox Series X gives you, and compared to the 364 gigabytes available for the Xbox Series S, it is of course almost tripled. I have around ten Xbox Series X games installed on my hard drive, including five major games. Without the memory card, I would have filled half the SSD (around 400 gigabytes left), and after plugging it in, I now have just over 1.3 terabytes free, and still have ten games and significantly more hard disk space than I started with.
Using the memory card is just as easy as using the internal hard drive, and it can be set as your main unit for games. Spontaneously, it seems that the Storage Expansion Card might be very marginally slower than the internal SSD, and in the games I tried (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Gears Tactics, Yakuza: Like a Dragon) it has taken a few seconds longer to enter the game from the main menus. Hardly anything that is noticeable, but worth mentioning of course.
To sum up, it's costly to extend SSD memory (fast SSD is expensive, that's just facts) to your Xbox Series S and X. Options are available as you can use a standard hard drive to store your games, to then move them to the internal hard drive when the game craving kicks in. In addition, more brands and sizes will be launched later, which will push down prices.
But if you have the money and want the convenience of having a total of 1.72 terabytes available for your new console, I can really recommend this insanely flexible solution. It couldn't be smoother, and I also like how easy it is to be able to bring a game like Assassin's Creed Valhalla to a friend to let them try it out, without having to download even a paltry megabyte. To just plug in the memory card and thus know that you have what you need for an entire long console generation without unreasonable requirements - is undeniably nice.
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